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The first stamp series of France is nicknamed Ceres, the Roman mythology goddess for agriculture and fertility whose effigy surrounded by grains is used on the stamps, although the official name of the series was Liberté (“Liberty”).
Still in 1848 Jacques Jean Barre was given the task to engrave the 20c black which was introduced on the first of January of 1849 and remained in use until July of the following year, when a tariff change was thought needed. It is worth noting the stamp is not numbered 1 in the Scott or Michael catalogues, which chose to include the series in denomination order rather than chronological.
It was printed by the Direction of Coins and Medals (“Monnaie de Paris”). It was typographed, unwatermarked and imperforated. Over three million stamps were printed, many copies survived and thus, it is considered a quite common item. The black colour was later abandoned as it caused confusion with the cancel and the possibility of re-usage (a similar case of the Penny Black).
Why the Ceres goddess?
A possible explanation for the choice may lie in French history. The end of the XVIII century was marked by bad harvest, famine and rising food prices, which were motors to the crisis that led to the French Revolution (where the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen was drawn based on individual and collective rights) and finally, the decapitation of the King in 1793. Following years of political instability, including the Napoleonic era, re-establishment of the monarchy and finally the Second Republic, Napoleon’s nephew was chosen as president in 1848.
Years of war, hardship and political changes made it quite difficult to choose any political or ideological leader to feature on the stamp. A symbol of fertile crop may have been more appropriate in the rural country which did not completely leave aside the liberty ideals proposed by the Revolution just over half a century before the Ceres Series was issued.
Catalogue Value: Unused ***, Used *
* 0.1 - 49 USD
** 50 - 99 USD
*** 100 - 499 USD
**** 500 - 999 USD
***** 1'000 - 9'999 USD
****** + 10'0000 USD
The First Issues Blog is a place to discuss about the stamp number 1 of each country, territory, district, etc. Each additional item to my new collection shall receive a small description about the item, its history and curiosities.
Note that I may add more than 1 'number one' stamp to a place. This happens as I judge that in the case of independence or any other political issue that changed the postal history or when I deemed interesting to do so. This will be noted on the posts when it happens.